Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Etiquette of the Cheer

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Etiquette of the Cheer

Article excerpt

Back in the '70's, I tried out for the North Junior High Wildcat cheerleading squad, but I didn't make the cut. Today, as a mother of six, I have finally earned my golden pompons: I sit courtside, poolside, and matside until cross-eyed, cheering my children through innumerable (if not sometimes interminable) competitions.

The only sport I've played competitively is tennis, where I was sixth seed on a six-player losing junior varsity team. As it turns out, my expertise (I know the difference between a rally and a volley) has lain dormant because my kids have chosen other sports: volleyball, basketball, football, softball, baseball, swimming, wrestling, gymnastics, soccer, dancing, track, cross-country, and bicycle racing. And baton-twirling.

If that sounds excessive, let me say that no one plays hockey, climbs mountains, or races dogsleds, for which I'm grateful. What does one yell to cheer on a dogsledder? Mush?

Frankly, most of what I yell is mush. While other parents shout directives ("Choke up on the bat!" "Shoot for three!"), I know neither proper form nor playing strategy. What I do know about athletics ("Be a good sport!" "Wear proper safety gear!") doesn't shout well from the stands.

So I've learned to stick to the vaguest basics ("That-a-way!" "Good effort!") and inflate my cheers with hearty clapping. But games are long, and the late afternoon sun is warm against my neck. I find my mind drifting. I contemplate the parents around me and wonder hazily if the game holds more interest to those who understand its subtleties. The clink! of bat on ball startles me as a child spins the orb into foul-land, and I hear myself shout "Good interest!"

Good interest? What sort of cheer is that? A fellow spectating mother gives me a sideways glance, and I shrug. She returns her interest to the game at hand, and I try to do the same. …

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